Strapped for time, is there an "ideal level" to shift from WK to really hammering down grammar and reading?

I think I’m miscommunicating, or at least overstating the degree to which I disagree, a bit – when I do my shift, I’m not eschewing grammar exercises entirely. The plan is to start up by divvying my 1.5 hours into 40 minutes grammar study, 30 reading, and 20 on WK. While I will skew more heavily towards reading once I’m satisfied that I’m familiar with the basics, I’m mostly disagreeing with the idea that reading is a reward rather than a crucial part of the learning process if only for the reason that the sheer number of words you’re exposed to increases dramatically through reading.


Bach and Mozart would like to have a word with you, at least so far as Hanon and Czerny are concerned :stuck_out_tongue: More seriously, I think the debate is largely more about the value of non-musical keyboard exercises rather than the whether there’s any value of exercises at all. Even if you fall into the anti Hanon/Czerny/formal exercise school of thought, you do (or at least should) wind up doing targeted repetitions of difficult passages in your music, improv exercises if you will. I do think the latter is more analogous to how athletes should be practicing, ie the way that they’re going to perform come game time (though this is a bit complicated by the fact that not all athletes have the same opportunity to practice in context and so drills have to suffice), but honestly either approach has been demonstrated to work time and again so long as you’re actually getting out and playing repertoire.

As an aside, there’s an interesting paper floating around somewhere looking at baseball player performance according to how they practice. From what I recall, they set the pitching machine to one of two modes. In the first, the machine made the same pitch every time during their practice, and the baseball players got phenomenal at hitting that ball. In the second mode, the machine was made to vary the way it pitched, more similarly to how a real pitcher would vary, and players didn’t like that very much at all because they weren’t hitting home runs and whatnot. It turns out that players using this second method performed much better in actual games than when they used the first because they were used to not being thrown perfect, knock-it-outta-the-park pitches all the time. To bring all this back to Japanese, you can kind of see an analog in our use of WK. WK is a pretty tame, controlled environment, and on here my kanji accuracy is 95+%. That accuracy takes a bit of a dive out in the wild because WK is more or less throwing the same pitch every time just by nature of the system, so we need to get our uncontrolled pitches from somewhere.


As someone who started to study Japanese 8 years ago and is now living and working in Japan, using nothing but Japanese every day, all day long, the whole premise of this thread seems to be flawed.

Japanese IMHO is not something you can pick up in “x minutes per day”. It requires a lot more than that.
What you may be able to do with that limited amount of effort is maintenance and probably some (small, lacking and, in the long run, rather frustrating) progress in one field.

If I had to pick one thing, it would be the kanji.
Grammar can be refreshed easily later, that’s a collection of concepts and, once fully understood, is quick to re-learn.

If I had to pick one thing, it would be the thing I am the worst at, since it’s literally the one that would benefit the most from focused efforts :thinking:


I disagree. Unfamiliar words and kanji can be looked up in a dictionary relatively easily, but grammar requires more deliberate effort to make sense of.

@reichter To be honest, I don’t think there is an ideal level. A lot of it comes down to you and where you’re at with grammar and your reading level (even if you know a good deal of grammar and vocab, reading is a skill of its own that takes time to develop). You will always come across kanji you don’t know, it’s just a question of how frequently it happens. That being said, I think taking a break in the mid-30s to focus on grammar and reading is totally fine.

Edit: obligatory mention of Nihongo no mori for short grammar practice.


Hi @reichter, I can’t answer your question since I am new to WK, however, I would like to ask you a question and I hope that some others will answer too.

  • Why is it that people using WK tend to deem vocabulary as not important? can you actually learn japanese without learning vocabulary?
    I am asking that question because I have seen that pronunciation of some kanji depends on the vocab word it belongs to. How would learning kanji only help you in your Japanese journey? Thanks!

I think relatively few people believe this.



So I don’t think anyone considers vocabulary unimportant. Like literally nobody thinks that.

What you’re seeing though, is people considering WANIKANI’s vocabulary LESS important than the kanji. I’m not one of those people, but I’ll try to fairly explain anyway:

  1. WK is not a vocabulary site. It’s a kanji site.
  2. It’s easier to remember the kanji reading if you know a couple of words that use it to jog your memory
  3. That’s easy to do for the most common kanji readings.
  4. For the less common kanji readings, sometimes they have to get creative to teach you a vocabulary word that uses it. Sometimes that word isn’t very useful in real life, or a word nobody would say because there’s a more natural one. That’s ok. It’s just to help you remember the reading of the kanji.
  5. Some people are good enough kanji reading remembererers that they don’t (think they) need the vocab words WK provides. So the vocabulary is just more work for little benefit.

I like the vocabulary because, well, more learning is still more learning. But for learning Japanese vocabulary, WK is not the best place for that. That part I can’t disagree with.


As other people have responded, vocab is super important. I think the things you’re noticing are due to a couple things:

  • First, the passive vocab of a native speaker amounts to about 40k words. WK will teach you 6k words, and not all of them see heavy use. This is because WK picks vocab that will reinforce the kanji it teaches you, and since the kanji are originally Chinese, there’s a very heavy skew towards Sino-Japanese words (Japanese words that originated from Chinese). However, “it is estimated that approximately 60% of the words contained in a modern Japanese dictionary are kango [Sino-Japanese],) but they comprise only about 18% of words used in speech” (from Wikipedia). This doesn’t mean the vocab here are useless – many of them will occur in text and occasionally crop up in speech – but you do need to get off WK to learn all the vocab you need to know.
  • Second, vocab is probably the easiest element of the language to pick up while reading, and because there are so many words, you will almost always be running into words you don’t know so you have to pick a lot of it up while reading anyway. Or I guess you could learn every word in the Japanese dictionary, but that seems poor.

Edit: One other thing that probably makes a big difference in how people talk about vocab here is that vocab has no direct influence on your level – do them all, do none of them, if your accuracy on radicals and kanji is unchanged, you’ll level up at the same speed.

That first part is true, and it makes vocab a giant pain in the ass. I like most aspects of the Japanese language (particles make me happy, kanji are great, the syntax is generally pretty logical), but the vocab is an unholy mess resulting from a centuries-old series of mistakes (ie, literally overlaying Chinese on top of their own native language some 1000 years ago in order to steal the kanji writing system) that periodically makes me want to quit.

You wouldn’t be learning kanji only, but there is a school of thought in which you learn the kanji first and then pick out vocab as you’re reading. I’m thinking of embarking on a less extreme version of that. At WK level 35 I’ll have a very solid foundation of kanji and vocab; with a little work ironing out grammar, I can get to reading simple stuff. Additional vocab will be picked up via reading and thrown into an Anki deck, and through focusing on kanji in WK I can try to stay a step ahead of the kanji game (though this won’t be perfect either)


Thanks a bunch for the elaborate answer, it is most iluminating in my way to learning Japanese. :smiley:

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Hello :slight_smile:

I’ve been thinking that, when I first have a proper crack at reading (hopefully soon, though finishing Tae Kim shall be higher priority), I’ll write up a command-line script using the Jisho API. I’d read at my computer, and enter unknown vocab into the script’s shell, upon which it would pull the relevant info from Jisho, display it, and automatically store it as a flash card. May be tricky though when it comes to words encountered in some inflected form or other, or words for which it’s not clear which definition should go on the flash card. (Maybe this could quickly turn into a monster app with a considerably more interactive interface than intended, using natural language processing under the hood xP Yeah no, I hope not.)

Have any of you used and/or written something like that? Does it sound useful?

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That sounds really cool; I’d hesitate to use jisho for that because it’s a very flawed database. Pulling from weblio’s jp dictionary would be awesome though, or maybe having an option to do one or the other since the weblio entries are written entirely in Japanese and may be difficult to start out with.

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There’s something like this already around although I forgot what the name is. You basically put in a text and you can highlight words which will return the definition which you can save as a flashcard.


o ok. what are Jisho’s flaws pls?

That sounds really good. :slight_smile: Is it really good?

Here’s actually an app I found on the forums lol: Jisho definition copy to clipboard (jisho2json)

I’m in class so won’t go into a ton of detail, but jisho draws from a number of open source porjects that don’t necessarily have a lot of oversight (like tatoeba)

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There’s no problem with it’s definitions. It’s just not Japanese so there can be issues with connotation.

Dunno I use Floflo personally (obviously, because I made that) but the program is It looks pretty professional so I’m just gonna assume it works well.

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Thanks, @reichter and @Raionus, those may turn out to be really useful. :slight_smile: (That includes floflo.)


Adding onto this, there are also Anki addons that can batch insert stuff like this from different sources, which is useful if you have, say, a text file of words already written down and import them into a deck. There is one for Jisho for sure, although iirc the output is ugly and others have discussed Jisho.


WK vocab has a worse rep than it deserves. Most of the items I’ve seen so far are fine. There’s some oddities like 申し申し - but I’ll just suspend disbelief for the sake of practicing the kanji.
Once you can read sufficiently, you’ll pick up more along the way just by continuing to read.

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Wait, the telephone greeting?

You mean the part about writing it in Kanji? Or the word itself? I assume the Kanji, since I’ve never seen anyone do that, but the word is all over the place.

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